August 21, 1992 was the first day of the siege at Ruby Ridge. That was eighteen years ago. In the last 18-years, I've always been surprised that more Americans weren't/aren't outraged by the Federal government's violence against the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge.
I know that the media often painted Randy Weaver as a racist, gun-toting, anti-government nutjob. Fair enough, but let's a closer look at Ruby Ridge, shall we?
The Weaver's were what you might call white-separatists. This is not necessarily the same thing as white-supremacists. Did they threaten black people? No. Did they hurt black people? No. Did they try to subjugate black people? No. How did they express their distaste toward blacks? They moved to a remote location in northern Idaho. Ruby Ridge.
Were the Weaver's crazed 2nd Amendment afficionados? I suppose. Is that a danger to public safety? Not really. The family's remote cabin was in virtual wilderness and the family's diet included meat of hunted animals. It was indicated that the family had a cache of firearms. . .how many? Fourteen. My husband and I probably have that many in our home in the middle of suburbia and I don't think that fourteen firearms is an obscene amount if you live in the woods and rely on hunting to enjoy meat in your diet.
Were they anti-government nutjobs? Sure. Is that a crime? No.
Here's the Cliff's Notes version if you aren't familiar with the story:
The government (BATF) essentially set him up. One of their informants hassled Weaver enough that Weaver caved and sold him a couple of sawed-off shotguns. Sawed-off shotguns sound pretty scary, right? How illegal were these sawed-off shotguns? Had he left just 1/4" more on the barrel, they would have been a perfectly legal length. Weaver, by the way, denies that he sold the shotguns at that length and claimed that the informant shortened the barrels himself.
Nonetheless, armed with this incriminating evidence, agents for the BATF then approached Weaver to serve as an informant. He refused. He was indicted in December 1990. A month later, agents posed as travelers having vehicle trouble near the road by the Weaver home. The Weaver's, such assholes as they were, stopped to see if they could offer some help. An agent stuck a .45 against the back of Randy Weaver's neck when Weaver was looking under the hood of the truck. Nice.
His trial was initially scheduled for 2/19/91 and was changed to 2/20/91. However, Weaver was told that the date had been moved to 3/20/91 in a letter dated 2/7/91 from his Probation Officer. Did you get that part? He was given the WRONG DATE. An assistant US Attorney appeared before a Grand Jury on 3/14/91 (six days before Weaver was instructed to appear) and got a failure to appear indictment for the 2/20/91 date. This is, the date that Weaver was NEVER TOLD ABOUT. Wonderful.
Weaver screwed himself by making the bad decision to not appear in any case and he holed up at their home. That's an arrestin' right there. But, unlike most failure to appears, he didn't run. He stayed at his home. So the federal agents simply went to Ruby Ridge, knocked on the cabin door, and served an arrest warrant, right? While that would have been the expected course of action, that is not what our government decided to do. Not by a long shot.
They set up surveillance cameras, they paid a neighbor to spy and put a phone line in the neighbor's home so they could report back, they placed agents on and around the Weaver property, they took aerial reconnaissance photos, ordered wire taps of local residences and the local general store. All this, and more, to capture a man accused of a relatively minor firearms offense. Your tax dollars at work, folks.
All this cloak & dagger behavior set the stage for the tragedy that began on August 21, 1992.
Six agents from the US Marshalls showed up in full camo and silenced M-16s with laser scopes. They were supposedly doing surveillance. Oddly enough, a medical team was on standby at the bottom of the hill. Okay.
The agents threw little rocks to try and get the attention of the family dogs. They did. Boy, they did.
The Weavers were out of meat and they assumed the dog had found some sort of game animal. Agents identified themselves to Randy Weaver and he hollered to his 14-year old son, Sammy, and their family friend to return to the cabin. Then he ran back to the cabin himself.
Details are murky about what happened next. Naturally. What is known is that an agent for the government shot and killed the family dog. The dog was shot from behind. Sammy Weaver yelled about them killing his dog, whirled around and fired off a couple of shots (one killed an agent), then resumed running back to the cabin.
And they killed him. A federal agent shot a 14-year old boy in the back.
They didn't identify themselves to Sammy Weaver. They didn't explain what they were doing. Nineteen rounds were exchanged and they killed him. A federal agent and a 14-year old boy died for absolutely no reason.
Once a US Marshal was killed, the FBI got involved. At least 400 people (including member of the agencies already mentioned, plus Idaho State Police and the Border Patrol) were deployed to the area during the 11-day siege that followed. Standard FBI rules of engagement stated that a warning would be issued prior to any deadly shots. That did not happen. Of course it didn't. The Ruby Ridge rules of engagement were essentially shoot to kill these adult US citizens on sight.
On August 22, Randy Weaver, his 16-year old daughter, and the family friend went out to the shed that housed the body of 14-year old Sammy. Randy Weaver was shot in the shoulder. They ran back toward the cabin. They didn't return fire. They were retreating.
Vicki Weaver, standing in the doorway and holding her 10-month old baby, yelled at them to hurry back. She was unarmed. A sniper's bullet went through her temple. The bullet went on to hit the family friend as he ran into the cabin, breaking a rib and puncturing one of his lungs.
The sniper, trained to be accurate within 1/4" inch at 200 yards, claimed that he was aiming for the family friend and hit Vicki by accident. Sure. I'll bet if he repeats that often enough that he'll actually come to believe it.
Vicki Weaver didn't have any charges against her and she was murdered while holding her baby in her arms. Yes, I said that she was murdered. If a sniper shoots a hole in your head, your can bet your ass that it was intentional. She was killed in cold blood. While unarmed and holding her 10-month old baby.
Randy Weaver eventually surrendered and he was arrested. At trial, the government did everything they could to demonize Weaver. Weaver's defense attorney was able to show that the government witnesses shifted their stories and that bullet evidence was removed and then returned to the mountain for photographs. They even were able to get the original snitch, the one who bought the sawed-off shotguns that started the whole mess, to admit that Weaver didn't want to break the law by selling illegal length barrels. When the prosecution was finished, the defense declined to call a single witness. They didn't have to since the prosecution had not proved their case.
Randy Weaver was acquitted of all charges, save the original failure to appear and violating the conditions of his bail. He was sentenced to 18-months and given a $10,000 fine.
A simple arrest could have been made, but it was rejected so that government agents could make a military-style attack against US citizens. The blood of Vicki Weaver and Sammy Weaver can't be washed clean, though the government paid over $3 million to make amendments to the surviving members of the Weaver family. They agreed to pay this money in an out of court settlement and did not admit any wrongdoing.
Ruby Ridge was an abortion of justice. Sure, the Weavers were paranoid whack-jobs. I think they were nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake, but the government's response absolutely proves that their paranoia was perfectly justified. And being odd, strange, or even crazy does not (and could never) justify the actions our federal government took against this American family.